Fathers of the Church
Letter CCLXXVII: to the Learned Maximus
by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A
THE excellent Theotecnus has given me an account of your highness, whereby he has inspired me with a longing for your acquaintance, so clearly do his words delineate the character of your mind. He has enkindled in me so ardent an affection for you, that were it not that I am weighed down with age, that I am the victim of a congenital ailment, that I am bound hand and foot by the numberless cares of the Church, nothing would have hindered my coming to you. For indeed it is no small gain that a member of a great house, a man of illustrious lineage, in adopting the life of the gospel, should bridle the propensities of youth by reflection, and subject to reason the affections of the flesh; should display a humility consistent with his Christian profession, bethinking himself, as is his duty, whence he is come and whither he is going. For it is this consideration of our nature that reduces the swelling of the mind, and banishes all boastfulness and arrogance. In a word it renders one a disciple of our Lord, Who said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." And in truth, very dear son, the only thing that deserves our exertions and praises is our everlasting welfare; and this is the honour that comes from God.
Human affairs are fainter than a shadow; more deceitful than a dream. Youth fades more quickly than the flowers of spring; our beauty wastes with age or sickness. Riches are uncertain; glory is fickle. The pursuit of arts and sciences is bounded by the present life; the charm of eloquence, which all covet, reaches but the ear: whereas the practice of virtue is a precious possession for its owner, a delightful spectacle for all who witness it. Make this your study; so will you be worthy of the good things promised by the Lord.
But a recital of the means whereby to make the acquisition, and secure the enjoyment of these blessings, lies beyond the intention of this present letter. Thus much however, after what I heard from my brother Theotecnus, it occurred to me to write to you. I pray that he may always speak the truth, especially in his accounts of you; that the Lord may be the more glorified in you, abounding as you do in the most precious fruits of piety, although derived from a foreign root.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.